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Michigan group touting dairy’s nutritional value
By SHELLY STRAUTZ-SPRINGBORN
Michigan Correspondent

OKEMOS, Mich. — June is Dairy Month and for the United Dairy Industry of Michigan (UDIM) it’s another opportunity to do what they do best – to promote dairy products as part of a healthy lifestyle.

“We promote dairy foods on behalf of Michigan dairy farmers,” said Karen Giles-Smith, registered dietician and manager of nutrition communications with the UDIM based in Okemos.

Giles-Smith said the UDIM has staff members trained to work with specific markets, such as schools, hospitals, food service directors, retail promotions in grocery stores and much more.

“We’re brand nonspecific. We promote taste benefits and versatility as well as the health benefits of dairy products,” she said. “Overall we just want people to be aware of how dairy foods fit into a healthy diet,” she said. “We focus a lot on the health benefits of the nutrient package that dairy foods provide.”

Giles-Smith said another mission of the UDIM is to “make people more aware of how they can fit dairy foods into their diets” such as the 3-A-Day of Dairy Program, which encourages people to consume three servings of dairy products each day. To help consumers better understand the program, the UDIM has a website at www.3aday.org that “focuses a lot on recipes, meal planning tips and tools,” Giles-Smith said.

One lesson that Giles-Smith said is important is to teach consumers about the portability of dairy products and the benefits of them as snacks.

“It is important even when we’re on the go during the summer to pack healthy snacks to take along,” she said.

Single serving containers of milk with resealable tops “fit nicely into a cup holder,” she said. “Yogurt is always portable (and so is) the individually packaged string cheese.”

Several recipes are available at the 3-A-Day website including a smoothie recipe using lowfat strawberry milk, a yogurt parfait, a simple bean and cheese tostada and more.

“Involve children,” Giles-Smith said. “It makes them more interested in food and being tasters.”

Everything that Giles-Smith and her staff teach is “reputable. The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Family Physicians and the American Dietetic Assoc. all recommend dairy products,” she said. “All of our information is grounded in sound science.”

Through the years, national advertising campaigns such as the Milk Mustache and Got Milk? have helped make dairy products more recognized among consumers.

A few years ago UDIM partnered with several schools throughout Michigan to sponsor milk machines in the schools. A similar initiative is currently under way, which aims at placing vending machines that will dispense a variety of healthy snacks including milk, yogurt, fresh fruits and vegetables. The project is supported by a grant program through the Michigan Action for Healthy Kids.

Giles-Smith said this is another important step in the UDIM’s quest to promote dairy products as healthy dietary choices.

June has been recognized as Dairy Month since 1939, when it was designated as a time to celebrate America’s dairy products and pay tribute to its dairy farmers.

The United Dairy Industry of Michigan is a local affiliate of the National Dairy Council. The National Dairy Council was founded in 1915 and conducts nutrition education and nutrition research programs through national, state and regional Dairy Council organizations on behalf of America’s dairy farmers.

For delicious dairy recipes visit www.3aday.org or for information on nutrition research check out www. nationaldairycouncil.org

This farm news was published in the June 14, 2006 issue of Farm World, serving Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.

6/14/2006